Archive for the ‘Guillermo Calderón’ Category

The Art of Revolution

Posted January 26th, 2016

Revolutions, as we know them, only earn such a distinction when they yield results, i.e. political and social upheaval. Failure garners these movements different labels: uprisings, revolts, terrorism. History is inevitably written by the winners, but thankfully we have art to help clarify some important points left out of these accepted narratives. This is where renowned Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón’s new play Escuela, gracing the FringeArts stage January 28-30, comes in. With the play, Calderón brings to light the paramilitary groups who fought against the regime of Augusto Pinochet, an oft forgotten piece of Chilean history, likely because of its lack of a conclusive finale. The 1988 plebiscite and democratic election that followed overshadowed their efforts with a façade of freedom, despite the many marks of Pinochet’s malicious junta still embedded in the government (including the man himself). Though Chile found itself a more peaceful nation in the election’s wake, this new calm did little to erase the traumas of the past.

la moneda under fire

La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, under fire during the coup d’etat that put Augusto Pinochet in power, September 11, 1973

From 1973 to 1990, Augusto Pinochet ruled as military dictator of Chile. He rose to power in the wake of a 1973 US-backed military coup, which toppled the previously elected socialist government and left its leader, Salvador Allende, dead by his own hand as bullets and explosives rained down on the presidential palace. This showing of extreme force was a fitting lead-in to Pinochet’s reign, a time characterized by an unprecedented campaign of political genocide. Approximately 200,000 Chilean citizens were exiled, 28,000 tortured, 2,279 executed, and 1,248 “disappeared.” A recent, shocking on-air radio confession by a former military conscript under Pinochet helped elucidate one method the military employed to effectively erase the remains of those perceived opposition they executed without restraint: dynamite. This systematic brutality carried out by the regime is unfathomably horrific and for the majority of Chileans the suffering endured under his regime remains in such visceral forms as physical scars, alienation from their homeland, and a baffling amount of unanswered questions about just what happened to their loved ones. Sadly, restitution and answers have been sparse over the last forty years. “Our national institutions failed to deliver timely justice for human rights violations so the arts have tried to deal with the trauma by addressing the subject from every angle,” Calderón, whose uncle was killed under the Pinochet regime, stated in a recent interview. He added, “Theater has become a way of exploring that trauma and also a slight consolation.”

Escuela, La Dirección y dramaturgia está a cargo de Miguel Calderón, se presentará en la sala N° 2 del teatro de la Universidad Católica a las 22 horas, en el marco del Festival Internacional Santiago a Mil. En Santiago; 20/01/2013 FOTÓGRAFO: * VALENTINO SALDIVAR*

Photograph: Valentino Saldivar

Escuela, however, strives for more than mere consolation. In the aforementioned interview, Calderón spoke of the radical leftist fighters the work portrays and their subsequent erasure from history: “Many people [who] sacrificed fighting the dictatorship with all means possible could not find a political or social space in the neoliberal and restricted democracy that emerged after the free elections. That generation disappeared into oblivion when their radical energy became a liability for the new democratic process. Escuela tries to bring back to life their methods, ideas and portray their ultimate defeat. Theater can rewrite history and that’s something we actively try to do onstage.” Despite the fact that the narrative of these groups is a largely forgotten and unrecorded one, don’t expect Escuela to be conjecture-based historical fiction. In a recent interview with FringeArts, Calderón revealed that, in crafting the play, he invited people who had engaged in urban guerilla warfare during the late 80s to rehearsals and had them recreate the lessons they were taught under circumstances similar to that of the play. These lessons, along with countless political discussions with the cast throughout the process, helped shape what we will see onstage.

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Winter at FringeArts lights up the waterfront

Posted January 13th, 2016

Communications Intern Hugh Wilikofsky shares his comprehensive guide to the FringeArts Winter season.


As we gear up for our first show of 2016, we at FringeArts simply cannot contain our excitement over our entire upcoming winter season. Literally. It is tearing us all apart. We’ve been screaming about it at the top of our lungs for some time now and the neighbors hate us. This excitement needs an outlet. So, I am going to do my professional duty and alleviate at least a little bit of that need by clueing you all in to the future goings-on here by the waterfront.


Photograph: Moon So Young

First up, showing January 21-23 is Toshiki Okada’s latest play God Bless Baseball. A collaboration between Japanese and South Korean actors, the play follows two girls as they attempt to comprehend their countries’ favorite pastime with the help of a man who understands the game but despises it, and another who thinks he’s Japanese baseball star Ichiro Suzuki. However, despite the men’s best efforts, the girls continually frustrate their explanations, slowly teasing out just how deeply rooted the game is in the everyday life of Japanese and South Korean people.

Though most contemporary Japanese theater rarely makes it outside of the country (as far as I know, though I’d be happy to be wrong on that one), since 2009 Okada’s work has received regular productions here in the US. His oeuvre is said to represent Japan’s “lost generation,” the group most affected by the Japanese recession of the 1990s and this is perhaps part of why he has found an audience here, in the wake of our own Great Recession. Characterized by the idiosyncratic vernacular of Japanese twentysomethings, his vérité writing style is in some ways akin to that of renowned American playwright Annie Baker, but his use of disjointed and abstract choreography based on exaggerations of everyday gestures imbues his works with a quirk all his own. On top of the Philadelphia premiere of God Bless Baseball, FringeArts will also be hosting a reading of Okada’s The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise directed by Pig Iron Theater Company artistic director Dan Rothenberg on January 18.

Escuela, La Dirección y dramaturgia está a cargo de Miguel Calderón, se presentará en la sala N° 2 del teatro de la Universidad Católica a las 22 horas, en el marco del Festival Internacional Santiago a Mil. En Santiago; 20/01/2013 FOTÓGRAFO: * VALENTINO SALDIVAR*

Photograph:  Valentino Saldivar

Next up, showing January 28-30 is Chilean playwright/director Guillermo Calderón’s latest play Escuela. Set in Chile in the late 1980s, amid the tumultuous transition between the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and the dubiously regarded democracy that followed, a group of left-wing university students receive secret paramilitary training in the living room of a fellow dissident. Hiding their identities with hoods to ensure none of them can betray their revolutionary comrades, these intellectuals awkwardly learn skills essential to guerilla warfare, such as proper crawling and rifle cleaning methods, in the hopes of overturning a corrupt regime, all while grappling with the chilling realities of staging a violent insurgency.Calderón has made a name for himself with plays grounded in times of violent turmoil and political upheaval, using dangerous and unstable settings as a jumping off point for larger universal themes, and Escuela sits well within this established style while taking it somewhere new. Instead of the surrounding violence haunting the onstage proceedings, as it did in Calderón’s first play Neva, it is brought to the forefront in Escuela as we watch its characters preparing to engage with it. In an interview with FringeArts, regarding the political implications of his new work Calderón asserted, “Politics is a combination of emotions and rationality, and that is what Escuela tries to convey and push to its limit.”

Kicking off February is a multimedia performance from composer Daniel Wohl, who previously graced the FringeArts stage last year with a multi media performance of his album Corps Exquis. This time around the Paris-born composer will be presenting his latest full-length album, Holographic, accompanied by an excellent line up of musicians and video art projections from LA-based artist Daniel Schwarz.

Wohl has garnered acclaim for works in which the acoustic and electronic blend into each other: a resonating snare drum becomes a low unnerving drone, percussion and electronic noise crash into a joyous cacophony, and synthetic pulsations elevate the steady bowing of strings to a higher plane. The result is immersive, slyly disorienting music that seeks to close the gap between the chamber groups of concert halls and academia , and electronic experimentalists pushing sonic boundaries in basements and warehouses. This is a one night only event, so mark your calendar for February 5.

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